Travel Q&A: Holidays on the horizon

  • Updated: September 17, 2011 - 12:59 PM
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The photographer: Betty Kowalski of Anoka. The scene: Kowalski took out her camera to capture a "still morning [when] the clouds ever so slowly rolled into the valley to frame the volcanoes of Fuego on the right and Acatenango on the left," she said in an e-mail, In July, she and her daughter visited four children near Antigua whom they sponsor through Common Hope, a St. Paul nonprofit group.

Photo: BETTY KOWALSKI, Special to the Star Tribune

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Q What's the best time to purchase my holiday airfare?

A Sure, autumn leaves have yet to fall, but now is a great time to begin researching holiday flights. The best present you can give yourself and others is a good airfare -- think of the gifts you can give with the savings.

Generally, end-of-the-year holidays fill up planes, so don't expect sales, which are timed to entice fliers during slow times. In fact, you should expect to pay a premium for holiday flights. But there could be fluctuations, including a few dips. I'd suggest you shop around, using mega-search sites such as www.kayak.com and www.bing.com, which offers predictions on whether an airfare will go down. This way, you'll get a sense of what various airlines are charging. It helps to be flexible on dates, and keep in mind that the price could drop if you are willing to fly on the holiday, rather than just before or after. If you find a fare that looks good, click "buy."

Whether you purchase during the initial search, or need to think twice, sign up for a fare alert, which will deliver an e-mail when there's a deal on your route; do that at www.farecompare.com, www.airfarewatchdog.com and many other sites. Wait a while to see if prices drop. If they don't in a few weeks, buy anyway. Because of demand, prices are likely to rise. But keep the alerts active, in the event the price drops enough to cover the change fee.

KERRI WESTENBERG

SHIPPING OUT

Weather alert for cruisers

Hurricane Irene wreaked havoc on travel recently, and it caused some cruise travelers to miss the boat out of San Juan, Puerto Rico, when cruise ships were forced to depart a few hours earlier because of the approaching storm. If you will be cruising when bad weather is predicted, be sure to check in with the cruise line ahead of time to see if there are any changes to the schedule. It's also a good idea to purchase travel insurance for your cruise itinerary, and if you purchase air separately, make sure both your cruise and airfare are included in the coverage. The cruise contract of carriage typically states that the cruise line can change the itinerary for any reason and it is not required to compensate passengers due to changes in schedule.

DALLAS MORNING NEWS

WEB WATCH

Teens share travel reviews

Who says travel tips have to come from adults? Teentraveltalk.com lets teens with wanderlust write about their family vacations, from summer vacations at American theme parks to building houses in Cambodia. The site features more than 450 articles that span destinations around the globe. The teens are credited with only their first name, which is great for online safety.

LOS ANGELES TIMES

IOWA

Historic Park Inn reopens

The Historic Park Inn, the only surviving hotel designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, recently reopened after an $18.5 million renovation. Rates at the 27-room historic property in Mason City, Iowa, start at $100 a night. For more information, go to www.historic parkinn.com.

WASHINGTON POST

WORK ZONE

Hotels to spend on upgrades

Don't be surprised if the next hotel you visit is swarming with construction workers and landscapers. The U.S. lodging industry is expected to spend $3.5 billion on upgrades this year, a 30 percent increase from last year, according to a study by Bjorn Hanson, dean of New York University's Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management.

LOS ANGELES TIMES

DEAL OF THE WEEK

Hotel deals in Barbados

Three Barbados hotels are offering a Stay Five, Pay Four promotion. Rates start at $125 per night double ($500 for five nights) at Sunswept Beach Hotel; $300 ($1,200) at the all-inclusive Island Inn Hotel; and $425 ($1,700) at the all-inclusive Mango Bay Resort. Reserve by Sept. 30; stay through Dec. 18. Details at the respective websites: www.sunsweptbeach.com; www.islandinnbarbados.com; www.mangobaybarbados.com.

WASHINGTON POST

SIDEROADS

Hailing all things cranberry

Calling all cranberry lovers. You can eat until your heart (or maybe your stomach) is content at the 32nd annual Cranberry Festival Oct. 1-2 in Eagle River, Wis. Thousands of people from around the Midwest are expected to check out the fun, including cranberry marsh and winery tours, a cranberry cookoff, an arts and crafts show, live music, antiques, farmers market and more (1-800-359-6315; www.eagleriver.org).

COLLEEN A. COLES

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